Could Plastic Eating Bacteria Revolutionise Waste Disposal?

Researchers in Japan may have found the solution to the huge wastage problem that the planet faces with plastic.

As a planet we produce over 300 million tonnes of plastic each year, which is the equivalent to the combined weight of all adult humans on earth! And staggeringly, we throw away nearly half of this plastic after using it just once!

Plastic waste is a huge environmental problem. Here at Rayda we take our responsibilities seriously by recycling 100% of all of the plastic waste that we personally produce, and also maintaining a ‘zero to landfill’ contract with Devon Contract Waste, for all of the packaging waste that comes to us.

But the global answer could be on the horizon, as researchers at Kyoto University have discovered a bacteria that can eat through plastic.

The bacterium ‘Ideonella Sakaiensis’ can digest the chemical polyethylene terephthalate (PET) which is the most common thermoplastic polymer resin of the polyester family and is used in bottled drinks and containers like ready meals.

But the bacteria digests the plastic at a very slow rate, as research has discovered that it takes around 6 weeks to digest a very thin layer of PET and it will require speeding up the process if it is to tackle the massive waste problem the planet faces.

The researchers are trying to edit the bacteria’s genes, so that they can increase the time it takes for the plastic to be eaten, but with nothing even coming close to this discovery, it is a huge step in the right direction because nothing has been able to penetrate the fungi that grows on PET until now.

Some argue that this idea isn’t any different to melting the plastic down and creating new plastic (recycling) and that it still won’t make any difference to the huge problem of plastic in the ocean.

On the other hand with more research, this could be the first step to tackling plastic waste and maybe if the bacteria can be modified, it will one day be able to dispose of all the tonnes of plastic that the earth wastes in a quick time.

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